Ex-NBA Official Tim Donaghy Candidly Discusses his Mistakes (Exclusive Interview Part 2)


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Welcome to part 2/3 of our exclusive with ex-NBA referee Tim Donaghy. In part one we discussed Donaghy’s infamous story, which dominated sports media headlines in the summer of 2007, as well some current issues in the NBA

Part two covers Donaghy’s past and how that’s affecting his present and future.

And in the final installment, Donaghy lets loose about how much scandal and corruption he believes exists in the league.

You may wonder what he’s been up to since his release from prison two years ago. Well he did some fantastic work on Deadspin for the 2010 and 2011 Finals. He pointed out numerous blown calls for each game, quarter-by-quarter. I suggest you check it out. He also writes for The Sports Connection, blogging and commenting on the air for an Allentown, Pa., radio show. Additionally, Donaghy makes $5,000 per speaking engagement.

By Paul M. Banks

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Here’s his biography from his Sports Connection profile

Tim Donaghy was an NBA referee for 13 years before resigning in 2007 after a gambling scandal rocked the league. After being released from serving a prison sentence Tim has become an outspoken critic of the NBA and the way it enforces the official rule book for referees.

Tim contends that NBA referees have been conditioned to referee “personalities” rather than the game itself. His outspoken views have put him in direct conflict with the NBA and its board of directors. Tim is a strong advocate for enforcing the NBA rules as written in the NBA official rule book.

Additionally, Tim argues that subtle pressure is applied to referees to “extend” certain high profile series for the purpose of financial gain to the NBA by attracting a larger audience. His book, Personal Foul: A First-Person Account of the Scandal that Rocked the NBA,” explores these accusations in detail.

Tim’s story has been featured on over one hundred programs, including 60 Minutes, ESPN, Fox’s Your World and on CNN Headline News. Additional media exposure has included the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Philadelphia Daily News, the Chicago Tribune, Sports Illustrated and countless radio appearances and interviews.

I would just like to further add that the views expressed by Mr. Donaghy are strictly his own, not mine or any other individual affiliated with the website.

PMB: For those that misunderstand your story, what would you say to set the  record straight? I know the media often has their own narrative and sometimes picks a black-or-white label (never ever shades of gray) and therefore displays a reporting bias toward info that affirms their position, and omitting info that doesn’t. How do you think this got spun?

TD: I think it was through the media putting certain out there. and just when you associate betting with an official and games he participated in, naturally they would come to the conclusion that I was conclude putting Kobe Bryant or Dwyane Wade to the bench with 4 or 5 quick fouls so the bet would win.

PMB: You threw Coach Gregg Popovich out of a game in which you had money on the Spurs; which directly conflicts with the popular media-driven narrative.

TD: That kind of really helped in explaining things to the FBI.

PMB: Do you feel your story was reported fairly in the summer of ’07? Do you think the excess of scandalous and negative sports news stories (Mike Vick dog fighting, Marion Jones PEDs, the unveiling of the Mitchell Report in MLB, Barry Bonds passing Hank Aaron’s HR record right before he was charged with perjury) at that time had an effect on how your story was presented?

TD: I think it did. I think the goal of the NBA marketing machine was make me the fall guy and the rogue referee, and then try to get it swept under the rug as soon as possible. I believe that’s what they tried to do, and they were somewhat successful in doing that.

PMB: Do you have relationship with the league today?

TD: It’s non-existent. I do talk to some people that are still associated with the league, but I have no contact with anyone in the league office.

PMB: I read that during your time in prison, you did 15 days in solitary confinement, how did you pass the time and maintain your sanity? And was the experience similar to how it’s conveyed in movies? The very definition of cruel and unusual punishment, “the hole” as it’s called in films.

TD: It’s everything you would imagine and more. When you talk about somebody like myself going to prison for basically passing inside information over state lines, and then getting to a point where they threw me into solitary confinement and fed me through a slot in the door like Charles Manson. And kept me in solitary for 23 ½ hours of the day, it was my worst nightmare, and absolutely horrible to deal with.

PMB: Possibly the toughest thing you’ve had to endure in your life?

TD: No doubt about it that, and being away from my kids during my prison time is something that tries your patience and extremely difficult to deal with when you’re staring at four walls 23 hours a day and not knowing if/when they will ever let you out.

PMB: What do you think about when you’re there and how do you not go crazy?

TD: Basically you do crazy, thinking why you’re there and the mistakes you made and y spend a lot of time thinking about your kids and your family extremely difficult to deal with.

Some people don’t realize that I spent that much time in solitary confinement, and a lot of people don’t realize that they put me in jail, because of wire fraud. Most people think I fixed games and don’t know the complete and true story.

I went to three prisons and the last one was actually a maximum security prison and I was in a cell with people there for alleged murder. The prison system is extremely flawed and the people who run it don’t really care who you are or why you’re there. They just want to sit in their office and get through the day with as little amount of problems as possible.

It’s extremely unfortunate that I choose to do what I did and I got caught up in a situation I wish I was never involved in, but we all know if you could turn back time, we’d make a lot of changes. but unfortunately I can’t turn back time and I have to live with what I did and the poor choices. I was 35 and had four kids so that just compounded everything. It’s tough- I put my head on the pillow every night thinking about what I did, hoping that I woke up and it was just a nightmare, but it’s not.  Every time I wake up, unfortunately it’s reality.

Look for the third and final portion of this interview Friday. Go here for part one

Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net. He’s also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, Walter Football.com, Yardbarker, and Fox Sports You can follow him on Twitter

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